culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Peace is not part of the plan. The US Department of Defense's only institute devoted to peacekeeping is closing. From
The Observer:
As the US military grapples with the most ambitious peacekeeping and nation-building operation in 50 years, you might think that planners in the Pentagon are looking at ways to increase resources that support peacekeeping and peace enforcement. Well, you would be mistaken. The Department of Defense has just decided to eliminate its only institute devoted to such operations: the Peacekeeping Institute at the US Army War College in Pennsylvania. The Institute will close in October.

With only 49 peacekeeping centres in the world, some military and some civilian, Canada will have the sole remaining centre in North America.

The Peacekeeping Institute was created in July 1993 to guide the Army's strategic thinking on how to conduct peacekeeping and to document lessons-learned. It has operated with a staff of ten and a yearly budget of about $200,000 (out of an $81 billion annual Army budget).


Now we have come full circle, with US forces having to make the transition from war fighters to peacekeepers in Iraq in a matter of days. The looting and lawlessness in Iraq's major cities suggests that the US military is ill-prepared to perform as peacekeepers. So, at a time when US soldiers are doing civilian reconstruction in Afghanistan and are the stewards of post-conflict Iraq, how could it happen that the Peacekeeping Institute will shut its doors?

The Pentagon's rationale is simple: the Peacekeeping Institute is a casualty of "force realignment". All bodies are needed at the front to fight the Global War on Terror. The institute's former director, Colonel George Oliver, has himself been deployed overseas to work with the Pentagon-led reconstruction effort in Iraq.

The absence of political champions for the only federal organisation dedicated to thinking strategically about the US military in peace operations points to an increasingly obvious disconnect in Washington: the Institute has no strong political constituency. It is a post-Cold War policy orphan, regarded with suspicion from the Left for being a child of the military and scorned by the Right for having the word "peace" in its name.
Not spending $200,000 in peacekeeping strategy, versus spending $100,000,000,000 in post-looting reconstruction costs. Brilliant.

"My concern is, what message does this send to the world?" Oliver told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his office in Carlisle, Pa [in 2002]. "It's going to say that the U.S. military doesn't really care about peacekeeping." (Via the Cato Institute.)

A bit of retrospective looking at the transition between Clinton and Bush from Government Executive Magazine:
The National Security Council [in 1993] brought together senior officials (mostly assistant secretaries) from a range of agencies to consult on the shape of the Haiti operation as a whole, while assigning each one clear responsibility for a particular problem: establishing security to the Pentagon, lining up allies to the State Department, reforming the police to Justice, rebuilding the economy to Commerce. The resulting plan was detailed and comprehensive, yet still flexible enough that President Clinton could turn an invasion around in midair when the Haitian junta backed down and allowed U.S. forces to enter peacefully.

The coordination for Haiti became the model, embodied in a document called Presidential Decision Directive 56. Admittedly, "PDD-56 never quite worked the way I wanted it to," said retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who helped write the doctrine while a Pentagon staffer and then saw it truncated in the Balkans. But at least there was a plan for how to plan. Said Col. George Oliver, director of the Army's Peacekeeping Institute: It "was only a partial step forward, but it was a big step—sort of like the first step on the moon."

In February 2001, the newly inaugurated Bush administration effectively revoked the Clinton directive. Whereas Clinton had formalized coordination and centralized control through the National Security Council, Bush prefers a looser process that relies on his powerful (and sometimes competing) Cabinet secretaries, such as Defense's Donald Rumsfeld and State's Colin L. Powell.
Our national interests are not being served. Our allies have seen through the lies. Iraqi civilians are suffering because of the poorly planned nature of the invasion. But at least we've secured the oil fields.

The Bush administration is less a government than a cult.
Dogtown and Z-Boys is a fascinating documentary about a handful of people who created a vastly influential chunk of Americana. The film chronicles the invention of aerial skateboarding in 1970s California and its subsequent explosion into the universe of extreme sports. Great footage, stylish direction, and vivid characters add up to a very well-spent 90 minutes.

Here are
a bunch of reviews from various sources. Skimble says: 8 out of 10.
Bill "Pussycat" Frist hides tail between legs. Hailed as a heroic medical genius or chastised for independent thought by his betters (depending on the day), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist now shoves humble pie into his mouth with both hands (
Tuesday's 75-minute meeting was Bush's first face-to-face with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist since the Tennessee Republican cut a surprise Senate deal to limit the president's proposed tax cut to $350 billion -- less than half what the White House was initially seeking.

"I apologized. I made a mistake," Frist said before the White House session, which included House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican. "My goal is to grow the number as high as I possibly can," Frist added.
Nothing kittenis more sacred to Republicans than moving hundreds of billions of dollars from the US Treasury into the groping hands of the rich — it just took Frist a little while longer than usual to have the logic of it spelled out for him. Now he has seen the light, and is a changed man.

The man who practiced freelance surgery on helpless little pussycats has become one himself.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
The mystery of April Foley. Bush's ex-girlfriend helps recall his
Ivy League days (Washington Post):
Bush shrugged off the trappings of Harvard and avoided the official clubs that would showcase him in the yearbook and look good on his resume. Instead, he showed up for class looking like he had just rolled out of bed in the morning, often sat in the back of the room chewing gum or dipping snuff and made it clear to everyone he had no interest in Wall Street.

bushbubbleHe was one of the few people who posed for his yearbook mug shot in a sports shirt, a wrinkled one at that. The other prominent picture of him in the book showed him sitting in the back row of class with longish hair blowing a huge bubble.

"This was [Harvard Business School] and people were fooling around with the accouterments of money and power," recalled April Foley, who dated Bush for a brief period and has remained friends with him. "While they were drinking Chivas Regal, he was drinking Wild Turkey. They were smoking Benson and Hedges and he's dipping Copenhagen, and while they were going to the opera he was listen to Johnny Rodriguez over and over and over and over."
April Foley was just nominated by her ex-boyfriend, now the president of the United States, to the Export-Import Bank board, which has been called "a tool for an elite group of politically well-connected corporations to get sweetheart deals and cheap financing courtesy of American taxpayers."

Which well-connected corporations? "The bulk of Export-Import's benefits go to a small number of large companies that are sophisticated enough to get financing on their own: Boeing, Halliburton, General Electric, Northrop Grumman, Lucent Technologies, ChevronTexaco, Caterpillar and Dell Computer, among others...."

Go read all the gory details — including the international finance loops that include Osama bin Laden and Riley Bechtel — at bad things, who rightly points out that April Foley is a cipher as far as the Internet is concerned.
Bush Two, Ground Zero. Junior wants the
open grave of Manhattan to serve as the theatrical backdrop for his reelection campaign.

The families of those whose remains he will desecrate with his cheap political stunt feel otherwise (New York Times letter to the editor):
To the Editor:

Re "Bush's Aides Plan Late Sprint in '04" (news article, April 22):

Since the worst terrorist attack in American history, which took the life of my brother, occurred in New York on Sept. 11, it seems appropriate that President Bush will be making his re-election bid from that city at that time in 2004.

Perhaps the millions of unemployed Americans, veterans whose benefits have been threatened, families of dead civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, working people who lost their pensions to corporate fraud, and 41 million Americans without health insurance can come to town and join him in celebrating the other achievements of his first term.

Cary, N.C., April 23, 2003
The achievements of Bush's first term are substantial. Too bad they're the wrong ones, having nothing at all to do with those who harm America. The Iraqi oil fields are open for business — but where's Osama bin Laden? The first tax cut for the rich was enacted and the second is on its way — but where's Ken Lay?

Link via Media Whores Online.
Presidential compensation revealed. No, not what's he's paid, but what it is he's compensating for is revealed in this
official White House photo by Paul Morse, a transparent pseudonym for Sigmund Freud.

Link via Marstonalia, who will be added to the permanent links soon.
Monday, April 28, 2003
Bush times are hard times, even in Texas. Now that he's lost the War on Terror (see below), Bush Junior apparently has also lost the confidence of his own "home" state, based on the results of this
2003 Houston Area Survey (Houston Chronicle):
  • In 2000 [while Clinton was still in office], 8 percent of Houston area residents called "economy, poverty" the biggest problem bushgolffacing the area. In 2003, that figure more than tripled to 25 percent.

  • Job opportunities were considered "excellent" or "good" by 73 percent back in 2000. In 2003, that figure is nearly halved to 39 percent. The proportion that considers job opportunities "poor" quadrupled over the same period.

  • A majority (53 percent, compared with 45 percent in 1997) support civil rights initiatives for gay men and women.
What a difference a few years make. Houston was of course hard-hit when Bush financier Enron went all MOAB on the region.

Funny how a governor of Arkansas can be more in step with what Texans want than a governor of Texas.
Jay Garner, oblivious in his palace. "To the disapproval of some Iraqis and aid agencies, Mr Garner [Jay Garner, the retired US general heading the coalition reconstruction team] has established his headquarters inside a palace compound once lorded over by Saddam Hussein. Some here say that the choice of a palace, ringed now by razor wire and protected by tanks, sends entirely the wrong message to the Iraqi people."

The Independent via xymphora.
Terrorists win War on Terror, with help from Bush administration. How else can anyone explain the epic scope of the Bush administration's irresponsibility (
Washington Post)?
KUWAIT CITY, April 24 -- Nearly three weeks after U.S. forces reached Iraq's most important nuclear facility, the Bush administration has yet to begin an assessment of whether tons of radioactive material there remain intact, according to military officials here and in Washington.

Before the war began last month, the vast Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center held 3,896 pounds of partially enriched uranium, more than 94 tons of natural uranium and smaller quantities of cesium, cobalt and strontium, according to reports compiled through the 1990s by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Immensely valuable rumsfeldon the international black market, the uranium was in a form suitable for further enrichment to "weapons grade," the core of a nuclear device. The other substances, products of medical and industrial waste, emit intense radiation. They have been sought, officials said, by terrorists seeking to build a so-called dirty bomb, which uses conventional explosives to scatter dangerous radioactive particles.

Defense officials acknowledge that the U.S. government has no idea whether any of Tuwaitha's potentially deadly contents have been stolen, because it has not dispatched investigators to appraise the site. What it does know, according to officials at the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command, is that the sprawling campus, 11 miles south of Baghdad, lay unguarded for days and that looters made their way inside.
First was the radioactive material from Halliburton and now this. How many ways do we need to supply anarchists with ingredients for dirty bombs?

And how many impeachable offenses do we need to get the ball rolling and end this perverse administration?
What the world needs now is Spy Magazine. This Rake Magazine
interview with Kurt Andersen, founding co-editor of the brilliant Spy magazine, reminds us that there is a gaping hole in the somnolent 2003 media world — a hole that could be filled with smart, skeptical humor as an antidote to the arrogance, conformity and faux piety that saturates the American mainstream.

(Andersen hints at a Spy retrospective. Yes!)
Friday, April 25, 2003
Shocker: Ken Lay loses money. All right, the loss was just a mere $125,000 out of a few properties in Aspen worth upwards of $22 million, but hey. From Danielle Reed in the subscription-requiring
Wall Street Journal:
Former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay just lost some more money, though this time it was on the sale of his house.

greenlayIn a little-noticed transaction, Mr. Lay sold his Aspen, Colo., home for $4.7 million, a price $125,000 below what he and his wife, Linda, paid for the property in 1999, according to public records and people familiar with the transaction. The couple's second Aspen home, which is across the street, is now in contract for an undisclosed price after being listed at $6.15 million -- roughly what the Lays originally paid.

Prices like that are a far cry from the $8 million appreciation the couple saw on a third Aspen home, a 3,015-square-foot "cottage" on Shady Lane that a soap-opera producer bought last year for $10 million. Around the same time, the Lays also sold an undeveloped lot at the base of nearby Red Mountain for $2.15 million, or $500,000 more than what they paid in 1998. A spokeswoman for Mr. Lay confirmed the latest house sale, but declined to discuss financial details.
"Kenny Boy" — campaign financier to George W Bush and energy policy adviser to Dick Cheney — needs all the cash he can get to maintain his influence.

Note that over $20 million in Aspen real estate (what's up with a second home "across the street" from their first Aspen home?) was bought up in the couple of years leading up to the most spectacular bankruptcy in business history.

Too bad Ken Lay, as the poster boy for manic CEO thievery and perversions of corporate governance, helped Bush trash the American economy. Otherwise he would be getting higher prices for his pirated real estate.

⇒ Here's a Ken and Linda "Jus' Stuff" Lay potpourri of posts from the ever-deepening skimble Enron archives.
The vodka-powered Jenna Bush administration. Forget oil. The 21st century economy will be powered by energy produced by
fuel cells that run on vodka (New Scientist).

But don't rush to the liquor store just yet. We'll have to wait for a new president before this scientific development comes to fruition (New York Times):
"Perhaps in the Jenna Bush administration we'll see fuel-cell cars on the road, but we're not there yet," said Jon S. Coifman, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Image via The First Twins.

Is this a compelling ad for Marlboro Lights, or what? Here's a map to one of Jenna's favorite barsDouble Dave's, right off the University of Texas campus near 24th and Guadalupe in Austin.

UPDATE APRIL 2008: Get a preview of Jenna and Henry's honeymoon with the Republican Kama Sutra!
The elder Bushes buy Sharon Bush's silence. Sharon Bush, the jilted witness to the Bush dynasty and ex-wife of S&L criminal Neil Bush, has been silenced with a generous financial arrangement by the president's parents (Shelby Hodge in the
Houston Chronicle, April 22):
With the divorce papers signed, the settlement reached, Sharon Bush is moving on. One week after the grueling two-day mediation that sealed the deal, Bush is turning philosophical about her split from presidential brother Neil Bush.

She won't be writing a Bush family exposé after all. "You know I'd never write a hateful tell-all," she said Tuesday.

But she is exploring the possibilities of life after the heady White House connections have ceased. A book remains among the options, even though a potential deal with Michael Viner and his New Millennium Press fell through late last week.

Viner said from Los Angeles Wednesday that the timing -- immediately following the divorce -- wasn't right and that Bush was having mixed feelings about the subject. "It just didn't make sense for us to go forward at this time," he said, adding that Millennium had not asked Bush to write a tell-all.

From the beginning, Bush has had her own thoughts about a tome. "It would be one that would be more of a book to help others. I need to make an income," Bush said after spending Easter weekend in New York with daughters Ashley and Lauren.

"I'm being offered several options, and one of them is to write a self-help book on what happens when a 23-year marriage is dissolved because of another woman. Because many people go through this ... about how you pick up the pieces and stay strong for your children."

Picking up the pieces, Bush plans to continue with the charitable works that have marked much of her tenure in Houston. She is currently working on the American Ireland Fund Special Olympics benefit set here for May 21. Ten of the 15 tables have already been sold for the event in the gardens of Paige and Tilman Fertitta's River Oaks home.

Monday, Bush joins daughter Lauren in New York for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute spring gala kicking off the Goddess exhibition. Among numerous "goddess" gowns on display will be one designed by Lauren in conjunction with Tommy Hilfiger. Later in the week, she and Ashley join a celebrity dog show (their mutt will be featured in a design by Lauren) benefiting the New York Humane Society.

As for her post-divorce financial situation, Bush said Tuesday, "The grandparents (former President George Bush and Barbara) have been good to me and to the children."
Sharon Bush's poker-playing skills aren't bad after all. But the bookstores will have to endure yet another treacly, uplifting volume from yet another talentless Bush — the price we all must pay so Sharon gets a divorce settlement that enables her to continue cavorting with Rolls-Royce dealers in the name of "peace."

Obviously she got a better than six-figure deal from the elder Bushes than was offered by Michael Moore's publishers, a deal that was sweet enough for her to renege on her earlier promise to expose the single-minded political machinations of the Bush dynasty.

Once again, money speaks louder than truth.

Previous posts about Sharon and Neil Bush are here and here.
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Blogs: "A parallel journalistic universe." All journalistic writing must now be done under the explicit sponsorship of corporate entities whose power must remain intact. That's the moral of this story in
Editor & Publisher:
Hartford (Conn.) Courant Editor Brian Toolan recently told Courant Travel Editor Denis Horgan that he could no longer publish commentary on his Web log, Horgan is a former columnist for the paper who was transferred to the travel writing position earlier this year.

After losing his column, Horgan decided to set up his own Web page, where he has commented on everything from baseball to the Iraqi information minister to same-sex unions. "It kept me happy and gave me a chance to keep doing things that I wanted to do," Horgan told E&P Online. "I do it on my own time, from my own house. I'm not competing with the Courant. I'm not looking for advertisers. In fact, it costs me money to do this."

But Toolan sees it differently. "Denis Horgan's entire professional profile is a result of his attachment to The Hartford Courant, yet he has unilaterally created for himself a parallel journalistic universe where he'll do commentary on the institutions that the paper has to cover without any editing oversight by the Courant," Toolan said. "That makes the paper vulnerable."

The editor added that allowing an employee to set up his own opinion blog was a bad precedent. "There are 325 other people here who could create similar [Web sites] for themselves," Toolan said.
Interesting to see how threatened mainstream media are becoming. And it's about time. Creating "a parallel journalistic universe" is the point of much blogging.

Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine puts it this way: "Many other media companies -- newspaper, magazine, TV, radio, online -- will need to start looking at the world in this way: from the other side, from the perspective of the audience, the audience as publisher."

Tip for Horgan: Pick a pseudonym like, I don't know, something weird like skimble, and then write whatever the hell you want.

Tip for Brian Toolan, his editor: Find a new career now, because the days of timid, pissant papers like the Courant are numbered.
Publishing or pandering? The two largest publishing houses are undergoing a major shift to the right, according to
Publishers Weekly:
[4/22/2003] Now, within several days of each other, the country's two largest houses have announced their first incisions [into conservative titles a la Regnery Publishing]. Penguin says it will do fifteen new conservative-leaning titles in a yet-to-be-named imprint under Adrian Zackheim, who's been concentrating on business titles at Portfolio but also has notched Newt Gingrich's bestseller and other titles from Republican celebrities. The company calls the titles "books of political opinion and dissent with a conservative perspective."


In an interview, Zackheim said he wanted to establish Portfolio's business list before going ahead with a new line but that the idea has been percolating and gaining steam for a while. "It's a category neglected by mainstream houses," says Zackheim, "and it’s so hot that David and Susan didn't want to wait any longer." Zackheim says the company will "not be going after anyone's formula," and that books will range from the pop-journalism of the Regnery titles to memoir to even possibly some academic titles a la the more coneheaded Spence.

At Random House, Crown's Steve Ross has announced a new conservative line, coincidentally also for fifteen titles (the number of times Clinton did not have sex with that woman?). The division will be combining its own program with the recently incorporated list of Prima Forum, calling the imprint Crown Forum. (At the time of the Prima integration, it wasn't clear how many titles would be retained; now, Crown says, the house has decided to keep a chunk of them as well as build the list itself.)

The house kicked off the announcement with news of a new Ann Coulter book, titled Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, that it will bring out in June. Prima Forum was known for a number of bestselling conservative titles and was one of the more successful imprints at the soon-to-be-shuttered West Coast branch.
That's thirty new books from the right wing.

Regnery's recent catalog includes such literary gems as Absolute Power: The Legacy of Corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security, The Bible Is History, Brighter than the Baghdad Sun: Saddam Hussein's Nuclear Threat to United States, and, most convincingly of all, The Complete Guide to Wealth Preservation and Estate Planning. And that only includes selected titles through the letter "C."

Link via Moby Lives.
Polygamist offended by Santorum. Going after gays is fair game, but when Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania starts in on polygamists, the gloves come off (
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The leader of one of Utah's largest polygamist sects has objected to Sen. Rick Santorum's comment lumping plural marriage with other practices the Pennsylvania Republican considers to be antifamily.

Santorum has been under fire for comparing homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery.

Owen Allred, 89, head of the United Apostolic Brethen, based in the Salt Lake City suburb of Bluffdale, agreed with Santorum in part.

"He is absolutely right. The people of the United States are doing whatever they can to do away with the sacred rights of marriage," Allred told The Salt Lake Tribune.

But Allred said Santorum's inclusion of polygamy in his list tarnishes a religious tradition whose roots are traced to biblical figures such as Abraham, Jacob and Moses - defiling them as "immoral and dirty."
In other words, Allred is saying, "We're here, we're 89-year-old polygamists, get used to it." Or "It's okay to condemn and hate sexual nonconformists, as long as you don't condemn or hate my sexual nonconformism."

Here's a glimpse into the sordid world of Owen Allred, as told in the language of lawsuits.
"Get me some of that Sumerian swag." Billionaires! Did you remember to place your order for merchandise from the
looter's paradise?
The collection at the Baghdad Museum included one of the first representations of a human face, plus thousands of cuneiform tablets and other objects that bear witness to everyday life thousands of years ago.

Experts say that up to 170,000 objects were lifted and that on the black market they could fetch from $5 for small items to $2 million for the best stuff. "When was the last time any of us saw great Sumerian art come on the market?" asks New York art dealer Andrew Kahane, who deplores the looting. "It's extraordinarily rare."

That may explain why the thievery seemed so well-organized. It was almost as if the perpetrators were waiting for Baghdad to fall to make their move. Gil J. Stein, a professor of archeology at the University of Chicago, which has been conducting digs in Iraq for 80 years, believes that dealers ordered the most important pieces well in advance. "They were looking for very specific artifacts," he says. "They knew where to look."

So where did the stolen art go? Knowledgeable dealers and scholars say a few well-informed and unscrupulous Iraqis probably arranged for poorly paid "mules" to truck the pieces through the trackless desert and across the porous borders into Jordan, Syria, or Turkey.

From there, the objects can be easily shipped by air to shady international dealers. Typically, the works are intentionally mislabeled, with their museum ID numbers stripped off, to evade detection.

Over time, such pieces acquire what’s known in the art world as "good provenance," or seeming legitimacy. Initially, people who buy the objects will make up histories for them. As the antiquities pass through several more hands, the trail becomes increasingly murky.
Speaking of "good provenance," these are banner years for the new American art of "making up history."

As for the loot: the $5 crap will end up on eBay. The $2 million pieces of swag will end up in a Swiss vault or as part of some American billionaire's untaxed* estate. The stuff in between has already been smuggled by FoxNews staffers.

Created as a response to the DoD card deck of evildoers, here's a card deck of missing artifacts, via BoingBoing.

Let's say for the sake of argument that the average piece of Iraqi pillage is worth $1,000. At 170,000 pieces gone, that brings us to a total booty value of $170 million. That's chump change measured against the $75 billion+ cost of the war and $100 billion+ for reconstruction. And that's why the White House and Pentagon didn't give a damn about the looting — it made no economic sense to them, the only sense that registers in the well-worn wormholes of their neocon brains.

*Billionaire estates are all 100% tax-free after the year 2010, thanks to Dubya's EGTRRA tax reform legislation of 2001 (Remember the $300 tax rebate checks? Those were EGTRRA bribes.). The children of billionaires who will inherit this astonishing concentration of American wealth will have economic and political leverage never before imagined on this planet. They will constitute a new generation of craven, nonworking, dividend-immersed leaders who will then your shape your children's bleak, dystopian Wal-Mart adulthood. Cheers!
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Swords into Blogshares. You can now use virtual money to buy virtual shares in
my virtual alter ego.
What "terrorism insurance" really means in non-legalese is explained at
Upper Left Coast Review. Hint: it doesn't insure against all terrorists.

And here's further clarification from Barney Gumble at MWOW^4 (4/22, 12:07 AM).
Another corporate criminal not in prison. Frank Quattrone, star investment banker, went and got himself
arrested (Yahoo/AP):
NEW YORK - A former star investment banker with Credit Suisse First Boston [CSFB] was arrested Wednesday on charges of obstructing investigations by a federal grand jury and the Securities and Exchange Commission and witness tampering.

The complaint said Frank Quattrone "unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly, corruptly influenced, obstructed and impeded ... the due administration of justice."

Quattrone was released on his own recognizance after agreeing at his initial court appearance to surrender his passport and confine his travel to within the United States. He declined comment outside court.
"Released on his own recognizance." What a gentlemanly way to treat someone responsible for billions in bullshit IPOs that he underwrote and used to enrich his corporate pirate friends (Gawker).

lay in jail?But the current administration prefers to keep children incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay (LA Times) rather than to imprison legitimately despised corporate criminals like Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, the Enron CEOs still at large. Instead, the Quattrones and Lays and Skillings of the world are free to move about the country on their own recognizance or lack of indictment, instead of rotting away like the economy they destroyed.

Keeping corporate criminals free exposes true Republican priorities. After all, only the people who know how to fuck with finance at the highest levels are going to enable the GOP to double their campaign spending to a record-breaking $200 million (NY Times) leading up the Republican primary to advertise the appeal of an unopposed candidate.

(Why is Big Media so complacently uncritical of Bush? The answer will cost you $200 million — which is what corporate media will receive next year as a keep-your-voice-down gratuity for running homespun ads of Bush chopping cedar on his golf-cart ranch to prop up a counterfeit image without competition. It's every capitalist's dream — a monopoly — applied to its newest indentured servant, the George W. Bush presidency.)

Thanks to bad things for the Gawker link.
Help unwanted: Franklin Graham. I don't usually cite whole articles here, but I couldn't agree more with the characterization of the Christianity being foisted upon Iraq in the aftermath of the war, as described by Dr. Mohammad T. Al-Rasheed in ArabNews:
Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and an avid preacher of the new-style Christian fundamentalism, is coming to town.

Franklin Graham is to the right of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, if that is at all possible, and he wants to come to Iraq. I have recently written an article calling for Christians and Muslims to unite. That union, if anything, should be against Graham and his hate-filled brand of Christianity.

Graham is anti-Islam. He does not make any excuses for it. He called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion.” Graham, like his fellow American preachers, is stubbornly ignorant of history and other religions. He shoots his mouth off in all directions and then claims to bring his charity to aid the Iraqis.

He also admits, in his own words, that he believes “as we work, God will always give us opportunities to tell others about his Son... we are there to reach out to love them and to save them, and as a Christian, I do this in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The hidden items on this war’s agenda are becoming clearer by the day. Graham is a close friend of Bush and his family. He was the one who delivered the invocation at this president’s inauguration. For him to come proselytizing and evangelizing in the heartland of Islam is an insult, and a dangerous one at that. He should understand that he is not authorized to speak in the name of Jesus. Muslims know Jesus. Granted, that they do not know him as the “Son”, but they know he does not condone the hatemongering Graham is so accomplished at.

Iraq is home to the Shiite holy places. Graham has no idea what that means in terms of the dogma, fidelity, and deep faith these places and their residents have. I cannot put it better than Steven Waldman who wrote: “I am not sure any of this means that America’s foreign policy objectives are served by having a Bush-loving, Islam-bashing, Muslim-converting Christian icon on the ground in Iraq tending to the bodies and souls of the grateful but deeply suspicious Muslim population. Or, to put it more simply, the idea is absolutely loopy.”

I might add that it is also extremely dangerous and will play into the hands of extremists on all sides. It will not do for the Bush administration to say that Graham has the right to go where he wishes. They should stop him.

No one has the right these days to go where he wishes, least of all to the United States. People are vetted, interrogated, finger-printed, and perhaps denied a visa to enter America. So what gives this madman the right to enter Baghdad when we know what his agenda is? Will the occupying power facilitate his entry?

To the masses, Graham will not be recognized for what he is, nor will his sect be seen as an anomaly of the Christian faith. Most will see it as Christian vs. Muslim, regardless of sects. For this reason alone, President Bush should whisper into his confessor’s (to use a Catholic term) ear against this mad plan.

Graham is a throwback to Christian conceptions of Islam fanned by medieval stories in the style of chanson de geste. Those people did not bother to study Islam but viewed it as a pagan religion. More than 1,200 years after these stories were circulated in Europe, we find that a modern American knows no better. His actions are a recipe for more killings and fanaticism.

President Bush has been on record as praising Islam as a religion. That is not enough now.

If he allows Graham and his ilk to go into Iraq, those who do will not believe him anymore. The issue to most Muslims is: What next? Makkah? There is no parallel to this, except if you think sending Nassrallah of Hezbollah to preach in Israel a viable idea. I doubt, however, if Nassrallah is as stupid as Graham — or as bigoted.
Christian fundamentalist, right-wing, stupid, bigoted, fanatical, hatemongering — that about sums up Franklin Graham and his political sponsors.
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
New blogs added to the roll. Blogger software difficulties have prevented these fine blogs from appearing here sooner:
No More Mister Nice Blog
words mean things
Back In Iraq 2.0
Blog :: Gary Hart
Silver Rights
We Want the Airwaves!
Go visit! (And thanks to everyone who has linked here, including one of our favorites: Cursor.)
"We will try and endeavor to get the menu." Spring frost continues in the White House, where deputy press secretary Claire Buchan answered none of about 75 questions posed to her by the press corps, even on such innocuous subjects as the menu for Easter dinner at the Crawford ranch. Dana Milbank in the
Washington Post:
When the matter is inconsequential, such as what the president is eating for dinner, the White House's determination not to answer the question is harmless, and often amusing. But it is indicative of something larger. In a study of communications in the Bush White House, to be published in the June issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly, academic Martha Joynt Kumar writes that the administration's intense control over information has the benefit of keeping the message simple and unified. But it also leaves presidential policies unexplained and White House responses inflexible.

"While previous administrations regularly explained policy proposals from the White House podium, it has not been a practice of the Bush administration to do so," she writes. Kumar also observes that "one of the byproducts of a communications operation geared toward action is the difficulty inherent in listening while selling."
Similar to the difficulty inherent in pronouncing the word "nuclear," walking and chewing gum, etc.

But answers to basic questions are indeed coming out of the White House — delivered in theocratic action, not secular words. From the same article:
Muslims were upset that Franklin Graham, who had condemned Islam as evil, preached at the Pentagon last week. Now comes word that the White House held a private briefing for 141 evangelical Christian leaders March 27 to discuss the Iraq war and other subjects.

Those invited included Jerry Falwell, who apologized last year for calling the prophet Muhammad a "terrorist," and broadcaster Marlin Maddoux, who has proclaimed an "irrefutable connection" between Islam and terror. Also invited were the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is sending food to Iraq labeled "grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ," and Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who said Iraqis are "desperately in need of the gospel." Invited, too, was D. James Kennedy, whose ministry published an article calling Islam "one of the greatest challenges to Christianity."
Meanwhile, Rumsfeld says (New York Times), "...we hope (for) a system that will be democratic and have free speech and free press and freedom of religion."

Of course, he meant in Iraq, at the same time his boss is calling America's most notorious theocratic wannabes to the Pentagon and the White House for a joint salivation session over all those appetizing, newly-conquered souls.

Dress the salad with this Moonie news crouton (MSNBC link via Atrios):
For his new Deputy of U. S. Trade, Bush has selected Josette Shiner, a longtime member of the Unification Church, whose members are sometimes derisively called "The Moonies." Shiner was also the managing editor for Moon's Washington Times newspaper.

In December, Bush gave another longtime Moon follower a plum appointment. He named David Caprara to head AmeriCorps at VISTA, leading some to question whether Bush is paying back the reverend for his generosity to the Bush family.
So what's it going to be for dinner in America? Democracy or theocracy?

We will try and endeavor to get the menu.
Devious Iraqi bosses contract with devilish Halliburton.
Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd):
"They're all with Saddam," said many in a group of workers who made an 80-kilometer journey in a crowded bus from Basrato to this dusty town, where oil pipelines snake across the desert scrub brush. The reference was to senior Iraqis working with Kellogg, Brown & Root, a unit of Halliburton Co. (HAL), which the U.S. has contracted to rehabilitate Iraq's oil infrastructure.

"They (Iraq oil managers) were all corrupt, making 1 million to 1.5 million dinars a month, while we took home 50,000 to 60,000 dinars a month," said one of the oil workers, mechanic Asad Jabar.
Iraqi oil managers made 20 to 25 times more than workers? That's undemocratic! Inhumane! How can bosses be treated so disproportionately?

"The average [US] chief executive's pay was 42 times that of the average hourly worker in 1980, according to Business Week. By 2000, the CEO compensation was 1,531 times as much as the hourly worker's" (Houston Chronicle). Regardless of how fast workers' wages rose in those twenty years, CEO compensation rose over 36 times faster.

It's an undeclared war, but American CEOs sure are winning it.
Monday, April 21, 2003
On the eighth day, after He rested, He built a creationists' theme park along Interstate 275. Even stupid people deserve their own
The cold winter is over, flowers are blooming and steel is going up at the unique Creation Museum, under construction in Northern Kentucky. Massive steel beams — some 50 feet high — now rise above the scenic skyline along Interstate 275.

Answers in Genesis, a nonprofit apologetics ministry based in the Cincinnati suburb of Florence, Kentucky, is building a 95,000 sq. ft. complex (which will include the new AiG headquarters) debt- free, as donations come in. Over $7 million has already been raised.

"Plans for the interior of the museum are taking shape, as well. As soon as guests walk through the front doors, realistic, life- size dioramas will provide a snapshot of an early world -- including Adam with dinosaurs -- that will challenge evolutionary worldviews," according to AiG's Mark Looy.
These "Answers in Genesis" geniuses have all the answers. Here's how they blithely explain the troublesome dinosaur problem:
The Bible tells us that God created all of the land animals on the sixth day of creation. As dinosaurs were land animals, they must have been made on this day, alongside Adam and Eve, who were also created on Day Six (Genesis 1:24-31). If God designed and created dinosaurs, they would have been fully functional, designed to do what they were created for, and would have been 100% dinosaur. This fits exactly with the evidence from the fossil record.
Wouldn't it be great if the world were explained as simply and as neatly as these cretins seem to think it can be? On second thought, maybe not.

Sad excuse for an educator, Dr. David Menton will be explaining all about dinosaurs this weekend to the 11-year-olds of Indiana.

How soon before these deranged people get science research grants from the US government?

Via ArchPundit.
Jesus died for your congressman's $1.1 million townhouse. Amazing how a million dollars here, a million dollars there, can blind your average Christian lawmaker from the fact they they are rolling in
theocratic conflicts of interest (Yahoo/AP):
Six members of Congress live in a $1.1 million Capitol Hill town house that is subsidized by a secretive religious organization, tax records show.

The lawmakers, all Christians, pay low rent to live in the stately red brick, three-story house on C Street, two blocks from the Capitol. It is maintained by a group alternately known as the "Fellowship" and the "Foundation" and brings together world leaders and elected officials through religion.

The Fellowship hosts receptions, luncheons and prayer meetings on the first two floors of the house, which is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a church.

The six lawmakers — Reps. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.; Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; Mike Doyle, D-Pa.; and Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev. and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. — live in private rooms upstairs.

Rent is $600 a month, DeMint said.


It organizes the annual National Prayer Breakfast attended by the president, members of Congress and dignitaries from around the world. The group leaves its name off the program, even though it spent $924,373 to host the event in 2001, bringing in $606,292 in proceeds, according to the most recent available IRS records, and pays travel expenses for foreign officials to attend.


"We feel like it's nobody's business but our own," said former Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., who lived there before leaving Congress to run unsuccessfully for governor in his home state last year.

That secrecy is unsettling to the Rev. Barry Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister who heads watchdog group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

"What concerns people is when you mix religion, political power, and secrecy," Lynn said. "Members of official Washington should always be open and direct about the groups they choose to join, just to dispel any concerns that there's an inappropriate or unconscious agenda in these groups."
Subsidized housing is so nice — too bad so few people beyond CEOs and Christian members of Congress are entitled to it.

Because the Capitol Hill townhouse is a "church," it's supposed to be "religious," and that means it's all "tax-free" too!

But ordinary American citizens don't have the benefit of their leaders' secretive benefactors, whose chief result was the claim to have helped not legislators but the poor.

Consider the spiritual symmetry of this arrangement: Congressional Christians get to make more money and pay less rent than their own interns and staffers:
Cameron McCree, a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas, was at the bottom of the scale when he interned on Capitol Hill in the summer of 2001. He earned $1,000 a month, but it cost him $800 a month to rent a room at George Washington University, not to mention the cost of food and sightseeing.
With even a little scrutiny, this scheme is looking less Christian and more routinely opportunist.

Once again, the most outwardly pious people turn out to be the sneakiest conniving bastards you'd ever want as your representatives in government.

UPDATE: Via The Agonist comes this long article on the benefactors' cult from Harper's.
It's better late than never, I hope, to point out that, while on the post-surgical mend,
The Sideshow's Avedon Carol is posting at Avedon's other weblog, a temporary depository of all that is good and just and sane in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours.
President as Pet Rock. The Bush brand didn't outsell the Gore brand — it just had better (and much more expensive) packaging to attract your average Wal-Mart customer, says
Digby. The deceptive tactics of marketing are now married to the deceptive tactics of corrupt CEOs and the deceptive tactics of Republican political strategy:
The Bush administration, then, really is the political equivalent of Enron. Ken Lay and George W. Bush and Karl Rove and Andrew Fastow and Jeff Skilling and Dick Cheney are all cut from the same cloth.
And what stingy, threadbare, conformist crap that cloth turns out to be.

But walking in lockstep comes naturally to the right. The larger problem is organizing people who celebrate diversity and nonconformity in thought and styles of self-expression. That is, Democrats with a capital D.

After the debacle of the midterm congressional elections last November, I had plenty of similar thoughts. But how will we get where we need to go while we're immersed in Republican-compliant media? I agree with the commenter at Digby's Hullabaloo who said that if the Bush administration is the political equivalent of Enron, then the press is Arthur Andersen.

The absence of a critically thinking mainstream American press is the void that all this blogging energy is meant to fill.
Riley Bechtel and the crony economy. The joys of the Bush economy are limited to the administration's innermost circle of influence and affluence (
Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
...Bechtel is widely perceived as the front-runner for future [Iraqi reconstruction] business as the U.S. spends up to $100 billion in what is seen as the biggest reconstruction project since World War II's aftermath.


At least two current Bechtel executives have ties to the Bush administration.

A senior vice president, Jack Sheehan, sits on the Defense Policy Board formed to advise Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who himself once lobbied for a Bechtel project. Sheehan, a retired Marine Corps general, manages Bechtel's petroleum and chemical operations.

And President Bush appointed Bechtel's chairman, Riley Bechtel, in February to the Export Council, which advises the president on international trade matters.


Bechtel's critics don't doubt the company is up to the job. Instead, they say that by limiting the bidding to Bechtel and five other U.S. companies, the federal government might not have gotten the best free-market deal.

"We are concerned that the government seems to be handpicking their buddies for these contracts," said Seth Morris, research associate for the nonpartisan Washington-based Project on Government Oversight.


Riley Bechtel, 51, is the great-grandson riley b
I'm so rich!
of company founder Warren Bechtel and has been chief executive for 13 years. He has emerged as one of the world's richest people with an estimated fortune of $3.2 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

The company has backed its personal contacts within Washington with sizable campaign contributions. Bechtel gave $1.3 million to political candidates from 1999 through 2002, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

That is a lot less than other influential businesses. The donations look like small change compared to the money Bechtel earns from the government.

In the fiscal year ended in September 2002, the Department of Defense paid Bechtel $1.03 billion, making it the 17th-largest military contractor in the country.
In retrospect, Bechtel makes even more sense than Cheney's Halliburton.

Why? Because it's a private, family-owned company, and therefore not bothered by such messy details as disclosure or accountability. It's logical for one dynasty — the Bushes — to honor the Bechtel dynasty.

Bechtel's past, too rich to go into detail here, is fascinating in its contrivances — first by wooing Saddam Hussein as a suitor (with one Donald Rumsfeld popping a breath mint and holding the bouquet), then by punishing him by killing him for his rejection of its affections:
After serving as treasury secretary in the Nixon administration, George Shultz was Bechtel's president for seven years before he left in 1981 to become secretary of state in the Reagan administration.

And Casper Weinberger was its general counsel and served on the company's board from 1975 to 1981 before becoming secretary of defense under Reagan.

While Shultz was U.S.'s top diplomat, the U.S. government tried unsuccessfully to persuade Saddam Hussein to let Bechtel build a pipeline to carry Iraqi crude oil through Jordan to the Red Sea port of Aqaba.

In 1983, Rumsfeld, while working as a special U.S. envoy in the Middle East, traveled to Baghdad to discuss the pipeline with Saddam and Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
, according to memos in the National Archives.

Iraq rejected the pipeline idea in 1986. Shultz has since returned to Bechtel's board of directors.

Bechtel exemplifies "the revolving door between government and business that Washington has helped perpetuate for years," said Jim Vallette, a research director at the Institute for Policy Studies, a nonpartisan Washington-based think tank. "We should have a separation between the state and corporations. Instead, they're acting more like partners."
Bechtel reminds us that the war wasn't totally about political hypocrites craving Iraqi oil.

It was also hypocritical hyper-opportunists moving American taxpayer money from the US Treasury directly into the hands of the Bush dynasty's supporters. And cynical geopolitical strategies designed to pilfer international assets. And the new Faustian alliance between corporate financial power and American military power.

Who would have thought that a choice other than Halliburton could stink quite as detestably?
The Book of Sharon. Michael Moore's publisher is ponying up the advance to get Neil Bush's jilted wife Sharon Bush's backstory on the Bush dynasty (Cragg Hines in the Houston Chronicle):
...Los Angeles publisher Michael Viner confirmed "a deal in principle" to handle Sharon's book. The Bushes viewed this as an especially bad sign: Viner also saw into print Stupid White Men, the work of Bush/Republican scourge Michael Moore.

Sharon's working title: Family First. Sharon's advance: "six figures," which covers a lot of territory and is apparently not close to "seven figures." Sharon's outlook: "It will be positive, not negative," said Suzanne Wickham, a publicist for Viner's New Millennium Entertainment.
Now that Sharon has been voted off the island, former first lady Barbara Bush is already practicing at the firing range for the 2004 Battle to Defend Her Family's Values:
The former first lady will view Sharon's book as another assault on her carefully cultivated image as the nation's grandmother, when, in fact she has the longest, most exacting political memory of any member of the family*. Runner-up in that category is the current president**.

It's not made any easier for Barbara Bush knowing that Neil's family-busting affair was with a former volunteer at the former first lady's good-works foundation. Or that the volunteer's own recent divorce case featured several letters from Neil to the "other woman" -- reportedly with lots of syntactical problems.
Syntactical problems are evidently a large part of the Bush legacy.

The current administration was supposed to be the alternative to adultery, but Sharon's book will put an end to that ludicrous notion — given that her syntactically-challenged banking criminal husband repeatedly porked one of Mom's assistants before the Republican slattern's most recent child even turned two years old.

Instead of the alternative to adultery, the Bushes have given us many other alternatives... to international peace, jobs, homeland security, civil liberties, environmental protection, the separation of church and state, ethics in business, viable stock markets, and fair elections within our borders.

*Translation: Bitch with grudge.

**Translation: Takes after Mom.

Previous post about Sharon and Neil Bush here.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Syringes from Jesus. A crusade by any other name would smell as sickening (
Christian Science Monitor):
Christians have been present in the Middle East since the first century, living harmoniously with Muslims for long periods. Some claim the problems are with a more assertive Western Christianity that uses its wealth in manipulative ways.

"There are very sincere missionaries whom Muslims like," says Dr. Nasr. "But what makes them angry is that US proselytizing is combined with worldly advantages: Poor people are wooed with medicine for their children, syringes for their cows, and then are expected to attend services."
Broadly speaking, a more assertive Western Christianity "using its wealth in manipulative ways" could include things like bombing and invasion. Especially since the purported rationale for the war — WMD and terrorism — has so far turned out to be an utter fraud.

Now the conquered people can suffer further indignities, bartering their spiritual lives for medicine and food. Aren't we nice for helping the armless orphan boy, whose family we killed and whose arms we blew off? I wonder if he has yet accepted Jesus as his true savior.

The way all these people act in the name of God — George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, Franklin Graham, millions of others — only supports the idea that if a deity exists at all, it is nowhere in the vicinity of any of them.

Happy fucking Easter.
Go read Monkey Media Report's excellent post on
Syria and al Qaeda.
"It didn't have to happen." Yahoo tells us that
Bush Cultural Advisers Quit Over Iraq Museum Theft:
The head of a U.S. presidential panel on cultural property has resigned in protest at the failure of U.S. forces to prevent the wholesale looting of priceless treasures from Baghdad's antiquities museum.

"It didn't have to happen," Martin Sullivan said of the objects that were destroyed or stolen from the Iraqi National Museum in a wave of looting that erupted as U.S.-led forces ended President Saddam Hussein rule last week.

Sullivan, who chaired the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property for eight years, said he wrote a letter of resignation to the White House this week in part to make a statement but also because "you can't speak freely" as a special government-appointed employee.

The president appoints the 11-member advisory committee. Another panel member, Gary Vikan, also plans to resign because of the looting of the museum.
The President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property has its own website stating that the United States Department of State is responsible for implementing the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.

Even though he was lone dove of the Bush bunch, former military leader Colin Powell is going to get the Chaos of the Chickenhawks pinned on him.
Is it still considered looting
if you have keys? From the Houston Chronicle:
Some looters emptying Iraq's museums of centuries-old treasures were possibly professional thieves who used keys to enter locked safes and vaults, experts said today. [...]

A gathering of 30 art experts and cultural historians in Paris said that while much of the looting in Iraq was haphazard, some of the thieves clearly knew what they wanted and where to find it -- suggesting they were prepared professionals.

"It looks as if part of the looting was a deliberate planned action," said McGuire Gibson, a University of Chicago professor and president of the American Association for Research in Baghdad. "They were able to take keys for vaults and were able to take out important Mesopotamian materials put in safes."
McGuire Gibson is coincidentally the same expert who repeatedly conferred with the Pentagon (Washington Post) in advance of the war.

We wrote about the deviousness behind this "looting" previously.
Please pay before pumping. Except no one is there to take our money for the
51 percent increase in oil imported to the USA from Iraq in February, the month before we invaded it.

In January 2003, we imported only 600,000 barrels of Iraqi crude a day. In anticipation of our invasion, we upped our order to 909,000 barrels per day in February.

Hopefully we put the purchase on a credit card so we can skirt the bill and also get a half-billion frequent flyer miles for Colin Powell.
The New, Improved Jessica Lynch Show. A healthy dose of artistic license can often make a drab story seem more dramatic (
Washington Post):
Accounts of the U.S. military's dramatic rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch from Saddam Hospital here two weeks ago read like the stuff of a Hollywood script. For Iraqi doctors working in the hospital that night, it was exactly that -- Hollywood dazzle, with little need for real action.

"They made a big show," said Haitham Gizzy, a physician at the public hospital here who treated Lynch for her injuries. "It was just a drama," he said. "A big, dramatic show."
This may come as a surprise to average Iraqi civilians and other recent amputees (see the same article above), but the American style of leadership is now 100% show business. The scripts, editing, camera angles, costuming, sets and props are much more carefully planned than any other aspect of government actions. The Jessica Lynch Show, like the The Fall of the Statue Show, is a fraud.

The war between surface and substance is over. Surface won. Why else put an empty suit in front of a painted warehouse backdrop — inside a real warehouse?


Wondering about Jessica. I found myself wondering aloud about POWs Jessica Lynch and Shoshana Johnson and casualty Lori Piestewa, and saw that
Jeanne d'Arc of Body and Soul had already wondered about the same issues that troubled me. Her post is dated April 6, a week before POW Shoshana was found:
...I had found myself wondering, too, if the situations were reversed and Lori Piestewa, the Hopi woman who was killed in Iraq, had been rescued, and Jessica Lynch had died, if we would not now be seeing the tragic death as more important than the rescue. If we wouldn't be thinking, yes, thank God that one woman was rescued, but we must not forget the brave, blonde girl who died at the hands of evil men, and fight all the harder in her memory. The word "wondering" is the key there. I'm aware of how often the issues and concerns of anyone who isn't white, male or middle class (preferably all three) get shoved to the margins, and when something like this happens, it's pretty hard not to notice that the media is obsessed with one particular woman, and that her pigmentation is different from that of the majority of women in the military.
Lori's story is told in "What about Private Lori?" in The Guardian.

Links via Progressive Gold and The Agonist.
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Next up for looting: The Art Museum of Enron. Another glorious aspect of Enron's past excesses is now coming to light — the company had a multimillion dollar art collection hand-picked by the wife of its now-indicted CFO. So says the
Houston Chronicle:
What Enron hoped would be a world-class collection of contemporary art promoting its cutting-edge image will go on the block next month.

switchThe first round of the auction, approved by a U.S. bankruptcy judge on Tuesday, is scheduled for May 15-16 in New York. Up for sale will be the most valuable pieces, including Claes Oldenburg's Soft Light Switches and nine other artworks.

About 50 other pieces will be auctioned by Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg in the fall.

Much of the collection was bought by an in-house art committee, chaired by Lea Fastow, wife of indicted former Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow. Given a $20 million budget, she traveled to New York; Venice, Italy; and elsewhere in search of pieces.

The spree continued from late 2000 to the following fall, when Enron went into the tank and shopping was stopped, having spent about $4 million.

"It's like The Beverly Hillbillies," said Hiram Butler, co-director of the Devin Borden Hiram Butler Gallery in the Heights. "What's not fun -- flying around, buying art?"

Examining a partial list of the artists and pieces represented in the collection, Butler, who specializes in contemporary art, "I'm wondering, 'Who are these guys?' "

Five pieces that will be auctioned May 15 are the highlights "are all 'A' quality" representative pieces of contemporary genres, including pop, op (for optical) and minimalism, said Amalia Dayan, a contemporary art specialist at Phillips de Pury.

The majority of the collection, to be auctioned this fall, is "lower value work," Dayan said. "It was a corporate collection. You have huge spaces you have to fill with art. When you have to fill huge spaces, you buy less valuable art. You combine that with a few quality examples."

Oldenburg's Soft Light Switches, a vinyl pop sculpture of what appears to be a melted light switch, is by far the most valuable piece in the collection. Enron bought it from Phillips de Pury three years ago for about $590,000, including commission.
Light switches, energy company — get it?

Effortlessly mixing the sublime with the banal, Enron's hamburger-helper art collection will be auctioned instead of looted, as if that makes any difference at all to the acquirers of such fabulously expensive objects.

I picture Lea Fastow in a Venetian gallery, haggling over price in louder and louder English with an Italian dealer. Ugly art for ugly Americans.

The Enron quote of the day for these "Beverly Hillbillies" is "What's not fun -- flying around, buying art?" For a contemporary art expert with a sense of humor, I give a lot of credit to the immediately likeable Hiram Butler.

Image credit: Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, who receives luscious commissions on both the original purchase and the subsequent auction of many of these artworks.

May 1, 2003 UPDATE: Photos at this post: Lea Fastow is charged and surrenders to federal authorities.
Neil Bush offers soon-to-be ex-wife Sharon $1,000 a month. Brother to presidential candidates George and Jeb and compassionate bank criminal Neil Bush is taking full advantage of his divorce proceedings to exercise his Inner Miser (
Denver Post):
...Neil infamously served as a director of Silverado Banking, Savings & Loan. The S&L failed in the late '80s, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion. Neil received federal sanctions and, with 11 other defendants, agreed to pay $49.5 million to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The family moved to Houston in 1991.

Maybe that $49.5 million is why Neil's final settlement offer to Sharon was $1,000 a month, which she refused. The case goes to jury trial this month.

bbushAccording to gossip columnist Cindy Adams, Neil is involved with Maria Andrews, mother of three (the youngest 18 months), who divorced her husband in October. Neil met Andrews when she worked for a Barbara Bush foundation. Dozens of letters from Neil to her have been admitted as exhibits. Ouch. Houston insiders expect Neil and Andrews to marry once his divorce is settled.
Adultery among parents! It's always refreshing to see Republican family values as they're actually lived.

Neil's offer of $12,000 a year precludes any more fancy Egyptian vacations for Sharon Bush. What a contrast from Neil's remarks about their March 2001 family getaway to a painfully obvious destination — the Mideast:
First of all, this is our first visit to Egypt as a family. My wife Sharon and my daughters have been to Luxor and Cairo, but never to the Red Sea. We’ve heard so much about the snorkeling and diving here, so we decided to spend a portion of our trip in this part of Egypt. I dive, but I’m not a master. My wife has been diving many times, but this is actually the first time for us to dive together as family.
Perhaps it also turned out to be the last time they would dive together as a family.

Sharon's refusal of the thousand-a-month offer was understandable, given the lifestyle to which she's become accustomed as part of the Bush dynasty.

Also interesting in the Egyptian article is the dyslexia angle, trumpeted as Neil's triumph of entrepreneurial insight:
Neil Bush has recently initiated a revolutionary interactive learning tool in the United States, which he calls the Ignite! Learning System. Ignite! is a computer program designed to replace classroom textbooks and help teachers teach and students learn more effectively. In his youth, Neil Bush suffered from dyslexia, and his 7th grade teachers told his mother, Barbara Bush, that he would not graduate from high school. Bush triumphed in his challenge to live with dyslexia, and was inspired to promote ways of learning such as Ignite! to enable children to be better educated by methods that help them develop their full learning potential. Ignite! will be launched in the United States this summer, actively promoted by members of Neil Bush’s family, including two of his children, Ashley and Pierce.
Readers in Texas and especially Houston — you know who you are (wink!) — are invited to email me as many local stories as possible as the divorce trial proceeds.

See a previous post about Neil Bush here. Lauren Bush has been hailed as a Republican Babe of the Week. Denver Post link via BuzzFlash.

UPDATE: The Daily Kos reports on a New York Observer story about Sharon's pitch for a tell-all book. Sharon is supposedly willing to break Bush family silence about its overt dynasty-building, since they collectively refused to budge on the $1,000 a month offer.
Thieves favored in California. The voters of California apparently prefer known thieves to unknown Democrats according to
this poll, that shows Bush (45 percent) ahead of any Democrat (40 percent) if the 2004 election were held today.

bushfaceBush's chief campaign financiers included Enron, one of the masterminds behind the California energy crisis that wiped $45 billion from the state economy.

Enron, of course, imploded in a wave of accounting scandals based on fraudulent earnings only months after helping Junior secure the White House and helping Dick Cheney determine US energy policy in secret.

Californians, no more snooze button. The alarm is ringing. It's time to wake up.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Advice on protecting antiquities was sought and ignored (Washington Post). The Pentagon was warned about looting, consulted with experts for months, and is now acting surprised that "it happened," in Rumsfeld's words.
What's your blog's sign, Senator? It turns out that The Rittenhouse Review is an
Department of Homeland Obscurity. The levers of power are being used to
flush money down the federal toilet (Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
The new Homeland Security Department's budget is about $38 billion, but as little as $3 billion to $4 billion in new money is going to state and local coffers, according to state officials. That isn't even enough to cover new federal security mandates, according to the complaints of some governors and mayors, who have had to increase taxes and lay off municipal workers, such as firefighters and police officers.

For defense contractors, the new government money is helping stem a decade-long decline in military orders. But the companies are still hurting from a recent collapse in their civilian business and are saddled with facilities that have been half-empty for years. Productivity gains in manufacturing also have helped the companies add work without having to add workers.
Adding work without adding workers is every capitalist's dream. But We the People have to account for some of this spending by the pluto-bureaucrats.

How did only $3 or $4 billion get allocated to state and local governments? Who was responsible for making the numbers line up with the new mandates? Talk about fuzzy math.

September 11 was supposed to have shown us how important firefighters and police officers are (especially to Peggy Noonan). But the irrationality of Bush spending is forcing them to be laid off.

So if only $4 billion goes to states and municipalities, $34 billion is staying right in Washington for... what?
In metropolitan Washington, the unemployment rate was only 3.5% in January, the lowest of any metro region with more than one million workers. The region contains tracts of suburban Maryland and Virginia and is home to many companies that have landed homeland-security contracts, often for computer services. It gained more than 42,000 jobs in 2002, far more than any other metropolitan area.
$34 billion for a handful of computer consultants in industrial parks in Chevy Chase and Fairfax County? Sounds a bit steep.

While computer services companies outside the Beltway thrive on federal generosity, public health labs — the ones who would be called upon in a real terrorist event involving, say, a bioweapons or toxic chemical attack — are calling the homeland security effort and its funding "missing in action."

Yet another happy thought for Tax Day.
An April 15 anagram. Here's a word-puzzle conundrum for working American taxpayers.

Come up with anagrams for "Texas/Wyoming"— the states from which our plutocratic president and vice president officially hail.

The best one I found is "My owing taxes."
cost of the war.
Monday, April 14, 2003
The trappings of civilization go to the highest bidder. It's likely that the globalized wealthy elite, who specified and ordered this war against Iraq as if it were an item on a menu, must now be in whispered communication with the shady (is there any other kind?) dealers of antiquities who are relieving Iraq of its
indescribably priceless treasures. Fences dealing in stolen artifacts must be working the backrooms and outskirts of Baghdad in record numbers. The hoards of ancient rarities don't get any rarer than this.

After all, if you backed this war, what authority on this planet could prevent you from participating in its plunder?

There's a bit more detail in The Age (Australia):
It is a cultural catastrophe. Yesterday the [Iraq National Museum]'s exhibition halls and security vaults were a barren mess - display cases smashed, offices ransacked and floors littered with hand-written index cards recording the timeless detail of more than 170,000 rare items that were pilfered.

Worse, in their search for gold and gems, the looters got into the museum's underground vaults, where they smashed the contents of the thousands of tin trunks.

It was here that staff had painstakingly packed priceless ceramics that tell the story of life from one civilisation to the next through 9000 fabled years in Mesopotamia.

In tears of anger and frustration, archaeologist Moysen Hassan, 56, itemised the pieces he was certain were stolen: a solid-gold harp from the Sumerian era, which began about 3360BC; a sculptured head of a woman from Uruk, one of the great Sumerian cities; gold necklaces, bracelets and earrings more than 4000 years old, and a rare collection of gold-trimmed ivory sculptures.

Too distraught to talk about the collection, he gave me a copy of the catalogue for The Grand Exhibition of Silk Road Civilisations, which toured the world in the late 1980s and for which the museum set aside its traditional reluctance to allow any of its treasure abroad.

All the items that made it safely around the world and back to Baghdad have been looted.

They include centuries-old carvings of stone bulls, kings and princesses, shoes made of copper and cuneiform tablets, pieces of tapestries and ivory figurines of goddesses, women and Nubian porters, friezes of fighting soldiers and ancient seals and tablets on geometry, and ceramic jars and urns and bowls, all dating back at least 2000 years, some more than 5000 years.


The sacking of the museum took two days, interrupted only for 30 minutes when pleading staff convinced members of a Marines tank unit to go to the museum and scare off the looters with a few warning shots over their heads.

Abdul Rakhman, the museum's live-in guard, 57, was a gibbering wreck as he told of the arrival of a shouting crowd armed with axes and iron bars to smash the doors and cases.
The history of civilization is a small price to pay for the continued fuel inefficiency of American automobiles and SUVs. Meanwhile, consider how the Halliburton logo would look rendered in cuneiform.

Link via Dublog.

UPDATE: pfaffenBlog has a wealth of insight to contribute to this story.
Tomorrow is tax day — please give all your wages to the Republican Party. The centerpiece of Junior's economic "stimulus package" is simply to eliminate all taxes on dividends, so that only working wage-earners will bear the full brunt of his budgetary irresponsibility.

Let's look at the justice of this system in light of the actual figures on Dick Cheney's 2002 tax return (
Bush's earnings were outpaced by Vice President Richard Cheney's $1.166 million in adjustable gross income and $945,051 in taxable income [in 2002]. But the vice president's earnings were down from more the than $4 million in taxable income for 2001, which included bonuses and stock options from his previous employer, Halliburton Co.

Cheney, who took $221,684 in deductions, had a tax bill of $341,114 for 2002. This entitled the vice president to a refund of nearly $95,858, but he chose to apply $20,000 to his 2003 tax bill.

Cheney reported $162,392 in deferred compensation from Halliburton, which he served as chief executive before becoming vice president. His office said the pay is unaffected by the financial performance of Halliburton.

A subsidiary of Halliburton has been awarded U.S. contract reportedly worth up to $7 billion to put out oil fires in Iraq stemming from the war launched by the Bush administration. Democratic lawmakers have requested an investigation into whether Halliburton received special favors, but the White House has denied this.

The earnings of Cheney and his wife, Lynne, also included $490,999 in dividends and $129,000 in business income. Mrs. Cheney in 2002 earned money from service on corporate boards and work for the American Enterprise Institute think tank. The Cheneys donated $121,983 to charity, primarily from book royalties earned by Mrs. Cheney.
Where should we begin with this analysis? Let's start with the $4 million in income "which included bonuses and stock options from his previous employer, Halliburton Co." for the year 2001 — a year which was notable for Cheney's eleven-plus months of service as vice president while receiving corporate benefits, his six secret and sealed energy policy meetings with Enron, the al Qaeda attacks on the US, and Cheney's initial planning of the war against Saddam Hussein, which coincidentally rewarded Halliburton with a no-bid $7 billion contract announced only days ago.

Even in 2002, Cheney was still on the take from the Halliburton till, to the tune of $162,392 in deferred compensation. "His office said the pay is unaffected by the financial performance of Halliburton." But they got it the wrong way around — the financial performance of Halliburton is inextricably affected by Cheney's office.

But here's the part that is perhaps the sickest of all: $490,999 in dividends and $129,000 in "business income," whatever that might mean, since no one is bothering to define or question it. A half-million dollars in dividends that he wants tax-free so you can pick up the tab for his war. Don't you hate guys in bars who think that because they told you a joke and clapped you on the back, you ought to buy them a drink? Except Cheney never told you a joke or clapped you on the back.

Note also that more than half of Cheney's income was in dividends — he didn't work for it. Everything about the Bush dividend-promoting "stimulus package" is a big juicy kiss on the asses of the wealthy and a slap in the face of anyone who works for a living. Those who own will get ahead. Those who work will fall behind. Talk about simplifying the tax code!

Then add in Lynne's earnings — at corporate boards where she is working so hard to destroy shareholder value, and at the American Enterprise Institute which toils ceaselessly to destroy our nation's judiciary. (And just who is buying those Lynne Cheney books that earn almost $121,983 in royalties?* You can almost see the dagger in the New York Times bestseller lists: "This book reports having bulk orders — from the American Enterprise Institute.")

I can't decide which is more stunning — the speed, or the scale, of their immoral perversions of American justice. The obscenity of their abusive policies, pathological secrecy, class warfare, and military war profiteering are all the more pointed now that the insult of Tax Day is upon us.

Whatever happened to centrist Republicans? As We the Little People send the wages from our little "jobs" to the US Treasury, somewhere a Republican cell is quietly metastasizing into yet another plutocratic malignancy.

*An Amazon reader's word-for-word review of Lynne Cheney's Sisters: "If you want to read about the USA and how it works, from the perspective of a rich, dillusional white lady, run right out and by this book. Lynne Cheney has a warped perspective on everthing (unless you're rich and white, then maybe you can relate). I'd say wait till it shows up in a trash can near you. That's when the price would be right." I guess that's another way of saying that if our markets were truly free, Lynne Cheney wouldn't receive $121,983 in royalties.

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